Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).
Chapter 17. Hamilton, Conn
In the morning, Blue stopped by the limo office. Cappy was on duty. "Hey!" he greeted her like an old friend, offered coffee, but she waved a fifty. "Cappy, have you seen Father Joe recently?"
"I drove Father Joe to JFK day before yesterday."
She rushed to the apartment for lunch. Spooning hot soup and crackers she called Tomasi. She explained, adding "Can I get some help over here?"
"Not yet, Humboldt. Sorry, you're the whole budget for now. Keep slugging away."
Next she called the Church of the Good Shepherd and asked for Monsignor Gordon. A secretary said: "I'm sorry, the Monsignor is away on travel. Can Father Tiernan help you?"
"No thanks. I'll call again."
She called Vito. "Can you check old passenger manifests for me at JFK?" A while later, he called back. "Fry, what are you doing? Yes, there was a Joe Travignan on the afternoon plane to San Diego two days ago. Keep up the" She hung up.
Blue met Eddie by the town green at four, when it was already starting to get dark. The white steepled Congregationalist Church's bells were chiming lightly. School children cried out in high voices as they played and slid around on an icy spot. The air smelled of snow. He had a grin as he got out of his car. She could feel something coming. She hoped it wouldn't turn her off too much. But no time now.
"Hello, Eddie." She lit a Chesterfield in the warm, dry car. "Time for a reality check. I want to know about your friend Father Joe."
His grin disappeared. "What about him?"
"He's a junkie, right?"
In the bluish glowering twilight, Eddie looked inscrutable. "He's a sick man, so just leave him alone."
"I'll bet money, Eddie, that he's bingeing. He takes trips to San Diego. You know who else takes trips to San Diego? His buddy the Monsignor. What do you know about Gordon?"
"Blue, you're stirring up a lot of stuff here."
"All I want is a trail to my drug dealers. I wasn't looking for two laurel and hardy priests, but now that I got 'em I'm not letting go until I see bottom."
Eddie banged his fist on the dashboard.
"This may be Smalltown USA but you can't cover forever."
"I know," Eddie said softly. "I know."
"Where is Joe getting his next fix? Are we going to be there to catch the guy who sells to him? Most importantly for me, is he getting his stuff from the same outfit that popped Guzman? That's what I want to know."
"I don't know. He's my friend, he's a good guy, he's an asshole in over his ears, and I feel sorry for him, okay?"
"People die because of drugs. We're cops, remember? We're supposed to save people from drugs. Or have you forgotten?"
Eddie lit a cigarette.
"It's getting cold," Blue said. With the car engine and heater off, the interior was quickly assuming an Arctic climate. "Brrr, Eddie, can't we go have coffee somewhere?"
"Yeah, I'm freezing my bunzos." They went to a fast food place and had burgers, fries, and cokes. They had to ask for ketchup, and were reluctantly handed little plastic squeeze containers. Eddie asked for salt. "That's real great for your blood pressure," Blue said.
"What are you, my mother?"
"Eddie, don't be a boy. Here, here's some extra salt. Put it all over everything."
"I don't know that anyone can help Joe and that hurts."
"So you're not only pissed off, you're hurt. Well that makes sense. I'm sorry."
"Just eat your fries, Blue."
She thought about Vito. She could hear his voice: That's marriage. This is love. Eddie had not mentioned a word about dinner the other night, and she wasn't going to.
She offered to pay, but he said the town would pick up the tab. He touched her hands twice. He was working up to something. It made her uneasy. Partly because she liked him a lot. He was developing a crush on her, she could tell.
She rose. "Come on, let's cruise by Father Joe's place. If he's in maybe we can talk with him."
A light snow was falling when they drove past the Sacred Heart church. Eddie appeared quiet, as though he were deliberating. He seemed reluctant. Finally, resolutely, he pulled over. "All right then, C'mon, let's stop in and say hello. I'm sure he's in there reading his Bible or something."
They trudged through the fluff of fresh snow. Their footsteps were muffled. Breathy steam poured around their ears.
Eddie rapped on the window, the door. "Joe? You in there? It's Eddie." No answer.
Eddie loosened his automatic. "Joe?" The door stood partway open. There was a slight crash inside.
Eddie kicked the door open and presented his weapon. A tall, elderly stranger inside raised his hands. An armful of files slipped and crashed and fanned on the floor. He had a cool, firm voice. "Don't shoot. I'm a priest."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.